Drakeo The Ruler Dead At 28
The influential LA rapper Drakeo The Ruler is dead. The Los Angeles Times reports that Drakeo, born Darrell Caldwell, was stabbed Saturday backstage at the Once Upon A Time In LA festival at Banc Of California Stadium in LA’s Exposition Park neighborhood, where he was set to perform. And now journalist Jeff Weiss, who has ceaselessly chronicled Drakeo’s music career and legal battles, has confirmed Drakeo’s death at age 28.
Drakeo came of age in LA’s Westmont neighborhood. In his early twenties, with help from DJ Mustard, he emerged as a unique and original voice in West Coast rap, helping to define a new wave in the genre alongside his Stinc Team crew, which included rappers like his brother Ralfy The Plug, the late Ketchy The Great, and Remble. On releases like 2016’s Cold Devil mixtape, Drakeo rapped with a timbre and technique that diverged significantly from the sing-rapping that typifies so much of modern hip-hop, leading Weiss to describe him as “the most original West Coast stylist in decades.” In a 2018 appreciation, Stereogum’s Tom Breihan described Drakeo’s flow like so:
His voice is a wizened, back-of-the-throat croak, a voice that suggests having just woken up from a nap and not being fully locked-in to reality quite yet. He raps his lyrics in a whispery grumble, as if he’s trying not to wake anyone who might be in the room with him while he’s recording. Even on hooks, he never lets his voice rise, which lends a matter-of-fact concreteness to an absolutely singular flow.
Drakeo became arguably as well known for his legal trouble as for his music. In 2018 he was charged with murder in connection with a shooting outside a warehouse party in Carson, California. He was acquitted in 2019 but soon faced a second trial on conspiracy charges stemming from the same incident. While in jail awaiting trial he recorded Thank You For Using GTL over the jailhouse phone. He was released in 2020 after striking a plea deal. He released his official debut album The Truth Hurts via Stinc Team this year and has continued to release music at a prolific pace, most recently the So Cold I Do Em 2 mixtape less than two weeks ago.
Following last night’s fatal stabbing, Once Upon A Time In LA fest ended early and Live Nation issued this statement: “There was an altercation in the roadway backstage. Out of respect for those involved and in coordination with local authorities, artists and organizers decided not to move forward with remaining sets so the festival was ended an hour early.”